A new report from market analyst Datamonitor reveals that UK consumers are continuing to abandon traditional sit down family meals in favour of snacks.
The report, The Future of Mealtimes, shows that rigid and structured mealtimes have become more informal, fragmented and less important than ever before to today's time-pressed consumers. By 2009, Datamonitor estimates Brits will consume nearly 3 billion less main meals at home with breakfast being the most frequently missed meal.
However, even though consumers are increasing their snack consumption, and choose 'pit-stop' dining and 'eating on-the-go', health concerns are still weighing on their minds.
"Increasingly, consumers are fitting their meals around their busy lifestyles rather than prioritising time to structured mealtimes," said Daniel Bone, consumer analyst at Datamonitor.
"This has also meant that less time is devoted to cooking."
Another driver is the fact that consumers are continuing to skip breakfast despite campaigns from manufacturers stressing its nutritional importance. In 2004, the average British consumer missed 114 breakfasts a year, and Datamonitor forecasts this will grow to 120 in 2009.
By comparison, their European counterparts missed on average 72 breakfasts a year in 2004. "Consumers have limited time in the morning due to work commitments," said Bone. "More and more are opting to sacrifice breakfast or substitute it for a morning snack to save time. In the UK, this is becoming increasingly possible with the proliferation of products targeting such fragmented consumption."
In Europe, missed Breakfast occasions account for 69 per cent of the total number of missed meal occasions and Datamonitor expects this to increase by 10 per cent over the next five years. By 2009, the average European will skip 21.4 per cent of their Breakfast occasions, which equates to 78 Breakfasts a year per person.
In 2004, out-of-home consumption in the UK accounted for 31 per cent of all eating occasions, and is set to rise to over 35 per cent by 2009, representing an additional 4.2 billion extra meal and snacks eaten out of home. In contrast, the number of in-home meal and snack occasions is forecast to decline by 1.7 billion.
The foodservice sector is also set to benefit from increases of out of home consumption. Datamonitor forecasts that in Europe, the number of food and drink transactions will increase by 2.6 billion in 2009 relative to 2004.
But despite the missed breakfasts and hectic lifestyles, consumers are more health conscious than ever. According towww.datamonitor.com Datamonitor, 72 per cent of Europeans claim to be more concerned about their health and general well-being than the previous year.
The report showed 80 per cent of US and European consumers believed it is important to improve their health through their diet. This suggests that the attitude-behaviour gap on healthy eating is diminishing.
"Consumers have become demanding and want convenient, tasty, healthy products that are widely available," said Bone. "It seems snacking be it pit-stop dining, desk-top dining or eating on the go, is continuing to help make traditional mealtimes a thing of the past.
"However it is important for manufacturers to recognise the need to meet consumer demands for healthier and more nutritious snacks to help compensate for missed meals."